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When he performed a low-key show at London's Astoria theatre recently, warming up for a full-blown world tour that arrived in the UK this week, he was greeted like some nocturnal messiah.
The audience, who were draped in goth's wildest regalia - a riot of piercings, tattoos, hair dye, PVC and netting - screamed out his lyrics in unison.
"I was really heading for death, there's no other way to put it."Reznor's transformation into the clean-cut, genial man sitting opposite me began when he finally accepted that he had a problem, and got himself into rehab.
This, he says, is when his problems really started."Fame, power, and people treating me differently - I wasn't equipped to deal with all that. These were his way of coping with his fear about making a follow-up to The Downward Spiral."It had been fun to tour," he says, "but it's not fun to sit in your room by yourself for a year - or two years, as it turned out."When he listens now to 1999's comparatively ethereal The Fragile (which was nevertheless a massive international seller), he says that, to him, "it sounds like a paranoid, terrified person."After touring that album for two years, he was "a complete mess".Not knowing all the words, I felt like a new inductee at a cult meeting.Reznor himself is not nearly as frightening as I'd imagined.The more interesting of these, “All the Love in the World” and “Everything,” are the opposite of “unfriendly” or “impenetrable”—their disarming warmth is what makes them memorable.Nine Inch Nails have spent nearly thirty years trading on a signature type of abrasive, parents-repelling industrial melancholia—they’ve provided decades’ worth of precedent in this style, and it would be it pretty damned difficult to release anything that could notably set itself apart on these terms.
There are only a handful of examples in Reznor’s post-millennial NIN output where the group have departed from their turbulent, sturm-und-drang industrialism.